A sinus infection, also known as sinusitis, is an inflammation of the sinuses. The cause may be bacterial, viral, or fungal in origin. Sinus infections are common, and may follow a cold due to the inflammation and swelling of the sinuses that a cold can cause.
The sinuses are four hollow cavities in the human skull that reduce the weight of the skull and insulate it. They are also an important part of the immune system as they provide defense against viruses and bacteria. A mucous layer covers the sinuses and propels bacteria and foreign pollutants out of the body.
The sinuses are normally filled with air, but the sinuses can become filled with fluid and blocked. The blocked sinuses make it easier for infection to occur, and when they become infected the body’s immune response is triggered. In response to the infection, the mucous membranes in the sinuses become inflamed and swell, and this inflammation is the cause for many of the symptoms of sinusitis including dizziness and others.
Acute sinusitis usually does not occur more than 3 times in one year, with each episode lasting less than 10 days in most cases. However in some cases, sinusitis can last longer than 8 weeks, which is called chronic sinusitis. Also, sinusitis that occurs 4 or more times within a year with symptoms that last more than 20 days is typically diagnosed as chronic sinusitis.
Cause of Sinus Infection and Dizziness
In many cases, the pathogen that causes sinusitis is the same virus that causes the common cold. In other cases, such as an upper respiratory infection that lasts longer than 10 days, the sinusitis may be due to a bacterial infection. More rare are fungal sinus infections, and those with a weakened immune system are more predisposed to getting fungal sinus infections, such as those receiving chemotherapy.
Dizziness results from fluid buildup in the ear. The buildup of fluid puts pressure on the ear drum and inner ear. This in turn affects the vestibular labyrinth, which is used by the brain to calculate balance. Pressure on the vestibular labyrinth causes vertigo and dizziness. Another symptom that many experience with the dizziness is nausea, and this is related to the vertigo.
For a sinus infection to cause dizziness, it is likely a substantial infection, and should be treated by a physician promptly if it hasn’t already. Dizziness is not a normal symptom, and dizziness can lead to falling accidents or other motor difficulties. Antibiotics or other medications may need to be prescribed.
Symptoms of Sinus Infection
The symptoms of sinusitis vary based on the affected sinus. The sinuses include the ethmoid sinuses (between the eyes), front sinuses (forehead), maxillary sinuses (behind the cheek bones), and the sphenoid sinuses (behind the eyes).
• Acute ethmoid sinusitis symptoms may include nasal congestion, pain down one side of the nose, headache in the temple, and pain or pressure that gets worse when a patient is lying down.
• Acute maxillary sinusitis symptoms may include pain under the eye or around the cheeks, pain on one side of the face, swollen cheeks, pain that gets worse when a patient lies down, postnasal drip, nasal discharge, and fever.
• Acute frontal sinusitis symptoms may include fever, postnasal drip, nasal discharge, headaches in the forehead, and pain while in the reclining position.
• Acute sphenoid sinusitis symptoms may include a deep headache with pain on the top of the head and forehead, nasal discharge, post nasal drip, double vision, and ever.
The chronic variations of the above mentioned types of sinus infections may have different symptoms including include bad breath, fever, cough, and pain and pressure in the cheek, nose, or eyes.
Dizziness is a symptom of a sinus infection that is experienced by patients with acute and chronic sinusitis. One side of the head may have more pressure than the other. Headache, ear pain, throat pain, and fatigue are other common symptoms of all types of sinusitis.
There may be a thick green or yellowish discharge along with nasal blockage that results in difficulty breathing through the nose. There may also be pain in the upper jaw or mouth, a decreased sense of taste and smell, and a cough which can worsen at night.
Treatment for Sinus Infection and Dizziness
Treatment varies based upon the diagnosed cause. In some cases, the sinusitis and symptoms will resolve without treatment, however only a licensed physician is capable of making this diagnosis. A doctor should be contacted if symptoms do not clear up within a few days, or if symptoms get worse. Sinusitis that lasts for longer than 8 weeks may be a sign of another underlying illness.
Treatment is given after sinusitis is diagnosed after a physical exam. An X-ray or CT scan may be used for diagnostic purposes in more severe cases. Sinusitis that is bacterial in origin may be treated by antibiotics. There are also over the counter medications like decongestants and anti-inflammatory medications that are typically recommended by a physician for treatment. Expectorants can thin the mucus and help improve sinus drainage. A pharmacist or physician should be consulted about the proper usage of over the counter medications and prescriptions.
Home therapies like hot showers and steam treatments can be effective complements to other treatments for sinusitis. Steam inhaled three or four times per day using a steam vaporizer about ten minutes each time can be beneficial. Mentholated medications like Vicks Vapo-Rub are also beneficial for opening the sinuses and promoting drainage.
Timeframe of Recovery From Sinusitis
Most cases of sinusitis will resolve with routine treatment. If sinusitis becomes more severe or lasts longer than the timeframe given by a physician, a follow up should be scheduled. Long lasting cases of sinusitis (more than 8 weeks) may require surgery or long term antibiotics for treatment. Also, a patient will likely be referred to an ear-nose-throat specialist for further treatment in this case.
If symptoms become severe or symptoms such as shortness of breath, confusion, severe headache, stiff neck, or swelling are experienced, a physician should be seen immediately.